Serving up safety for restaurant workers

One restaurant owner explains how barriers and a clear anti-harassment strategy are two ways to support workers — and they make good business sense too. 

Photo of waiter serving coffee to group of friends while everyone one is wearing protective face mask due to COVID-19 epidemic.

Photo credit: Zigic

The B.C. Provincial Health Officer recently issued an order requiring all employers to review their COVID-19 safety plans, and ensure that appropriate protocols are in place to protect workers from the risk of transmission.

“As part of our COVID-19 safety plan review, I asked the staff how our procedures were working and if customers were following the rules,” says local business owner, Robert Stodola, who runs both Señor Froggy restaurants in Kamloops.

Robert’s staff told him that customers frequently peered around the plexiglass shields at the cash terminal. “Customers were moving around the side of the barrier to talk to them, and that was making our staff nervous.”

With these concerns in mind, Robert took a good look at the physical set-up and found a solution.

“I went to my workshop and fabricated new wings with piano hinges and plexiglass to attach to the existing front screens. The added pieces provided much better protection for staff,” Robert says. “They feel much more comfortable now and customers don’t try to get around the barriers.”

Robert points out the value of reviewing safety procedures. “The solutions we put in place earlier in the pandemic were the best solutions we could think of at the time. We needed to re-evaluate the procedures we developed earlier, to make sure that they were working the way we anticipated they would.”

Standing up against harassment of restaurant staff

Robert also took steps to protect his staff this summer. In June 2020, Señor Froggy was in the news after Robert took a stand against customers who harassed his employees (as reported in this Global News story: ‘Completely unacceptable’: COVID-19 customer rudeness reaches breaking point in B.C.).

He put up a number of signs, including one that read: “Abuse towards our staff has been appalling… They are learning this new way of doing things (just like you) and are stressed too. They are showing up every day and doing their best to help you.”

Robert says he and his staff have seen a huge improvement since the signs went up. He has this advice for other small business employers: “Recognize that it’s tougher than normal for staff during this pandemic, so take care of them. You have to listen to what they need and think about it.”

Access additional resources and information from WorkSafeBC and the Provincial Government:

Do you have any learnings to share after a COVID-19 Safety Plan review? Please share in the comments below.

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